Tag Archive: movies


Mother’s Day

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

It is May and I have plenty of garden work to do. I purposely planted zinnia seeds in my front garden in the spots where nothing grows very well. Last fall I loved my blackberry lilies around so they would mostly be in one spot.

At a recent sale I purchased two wild geraniums and a coral bells to place in my shade garden. Then I received a note from a gardening friend who is giving up her flowers. She has offered to let me take a shovel to her yard and grab what I want.

Is there anything more heavenly?

Maybe gardening is not for everyone. I personally love to get into the dirt and create a garden that will bloom at various times of the year. Truth be told, my favorite mother’s day gift is a flat of plants. This year I want to add more lavender and flowering cabbage so that the fall version of my garden is just as pretty as the spring version.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-movie-charactersEveryone does different things for Mother’s day. They might go for brunch or cook a special meal. May be the family does a picnic or a walk in the woods. Some feel it is a special holiday not to be missed while others call it a ‘Hallmark’ holiday.

What is a person to do?

Frankly, my thought is to plant my new plants, supervise cleaning of my house, and have a fabulous meal. At some point I want to watch a movie but the question is always which movie.

I currently have Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is sitting on my pile. It’s a good movie continuing stories in the Harry Potter series before his parents were born but not the one I was thinking about.

To Walk InvisibleBut I am really interested in watching a movie that has been featured on Masterpiece Theater called To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters. The story line is set during a three year period in which the Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Anne, and Emily – write literary masterpieces. Their books, respectively – Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Wuthering Heights – were published at a time when women were not designated for anything beyond take care of a home and being married.

From the reviews I have read, this is a raw movie that may inflame your sensibilities as the Bronte sisters deal with being published authors, having their names known to the public, and wondering how to live privately in a public era.

The Bronte sisters were like a lot of resilient women in their era, they succeeded when they were told they could not. Even their own voices whispeared caution. But like every other fiction-how-did-I get -here tale, we find how they made thei r mark, how they changes the landscpe of literture in a goo way.

To me that is worth watching.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Advertisements

Ending the Season

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

The Christmas Season is almost over. Some of you might be celebrating later because of work schedules or travel schedules or various events.

Been there, done that.

christalkindl-marketThis past weekend we finally squeezed in a visit to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. The traditional German Christmas market is one I have longed to go to and not just because parts of my family are German.

I love the smells of roasting nuts and mulled wine. There were sausages, potato pancakes, and hot apple cider. There were beautiful knits from Germany, Ireland, and Guatemala. I saw incredible wooden works of arts including a Santa nut cracker. One booth offered up embroidered table scarves that were quite stunning.

The entire village was lighted in beautiful yellow glowing twinkle lights. The effect was magical under the watchful eye of the Picasso statue. We had a long walk back to the car but the market was totally worth it and I can’t wait to go back again next year.

while-you-were-sleepingBut now that the season is almost over, if you haven’t watched certain movies, this is your last chance before it feels a little weird and out of place. You might want to get While You Were Sleeping out of the way. This Sandra Bullock movie is about a lonely CTA worker who saves her favorite customer from being run over by train.

In order to see him at the hospital, she lies about being his fiancee so that she can visit with him. Unfortunately, Peter Gallagher is unconscious and unaware he has a fiancee. Then his family show up and embrace Lucy as family. The woman, who had no one but her cat and a wannabe boyfriend, suddenly is surrounded by family and has a stocking on the mantle with her name on it. It is a heady experience which gets complicated when she meets his brother, Bill Pullman.

Now you know what happens next. It is pretty clear. For me, this time the journey is totally worth the ride. Our heroine is sweet but a little goofy. Her main love interest is gruff and wanting out of the family business. And the supporting cast is phenomenal, especially the old family friend who has to tell the patient he is a putz.

But I love it. It makes me laugh and cry. There are sweet moments and funny one. There are times that I swear I know which neighborhood each scene was filmed in and others that make me wish for the dreamland of LaGrange.

In case this movie is too happy, too sappy, too girly there is always the Die Hard series.

Yippe-ki-yay, indeed.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Best of Christmas

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Do you have your must-watch movies during the holiday season?

I know I do.

Just like those must have treats, the holiday season doesn’t feel right without certain movies.

christmas-cookiesOne holiday treat I miss are the mini pecan pies one of my mom’s friends used to make. She used a cream cheese dough that was perfect with the custard and nut filling. But Chris has been gone for too many years and I never could re-create them.

However, I can make kolachi cookies and plan to do so this year. I think one Saturday will be spent in the kitchen rolling out dough and filling them with apricot or cream cheese filling. I wouldn’t mind making white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies as well. And I think the kids want those peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle. Somehow it doesn’t seem like Christmas without them.

One thing I have never been able to do is make a decent pie crust until I found a recipe that called for half butter and half shortening. Forget the Martha Stewart food processor version. This recipe never falls apart on me or make me wish I hadn’t attempted a homemade crust. Now I just need to learn how to make those pies with the beautiful leaves and vines.

A Christmas Story Peter IMDb com

Ralphie talks to Santa in “A Christmas Story”; Picture from IMDb.com

As for movies, it is never really Christmas without watching A Christmas Story. Will Ralphie get his rifle? Will his dad win the battle against the furnace? Will his little brother ever get to go outside without looking like the Michelin Man? I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t care if I have seen this movie a thousand times. I love spending time with this family. So much so that we have taken on a family tradition of going to the Chinese buffet for our Christmas meal – without the duck.

Another tradition I like to include is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Sometimes I feel as if the music is too much of a minor key while other times it leaves me breathless and happy. But the story is the thing here as Charlie fights against the commercialization of the season. It is symbolized by his friends and family desire to be the biggest, brightest of the season and his rebellion of picking a Christmas tree that is the saddest one on the lot. Joy is the end result as we remember the Christmas story.

The Nativity Story poster IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com

With so many biblical movies in the past few years, the one I lean towards in The Nativity Story (2006) starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Issac as Mary and Joseph. It shows the time in which Mary is betrothed – unwillingly- to Joseph. A message from an angel changes her life, puts her in great danger, and challenges Joseph to act with faith. While the movie was made quickly, I find it beautiful to watch and deeply compelling. Each character grows more precious in my eyes as I come to understand their bravery, knowledge, and wisdom.

All of these are watchable by many member of the family. But the one I love most of all is Love Actually. I watch it with the husband or girlfriends because it has enough swear words and sexual situations to be uncomfortable with my adult children or mother.

Love, Actually IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com.

That is despite it being a movie that is best for late-teen to adult viewing. And yet, what I love about this movie is its message of hope in most cases. That we can find love with the right person. It’s just that there are many definitions of love in this movie and not all of them are happy. Couples are challenged, find that while love exists it cannot work for them, or that the person they love the most is never who they expected. And all of this takes place during the Christmas season.

Without any of these my Christmas is a little more lackluster, a little less teary, a little less hopeful.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Sweet Ringing of Hope

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

There is something a little sweeter in my neighborhood. The Presbyterian Church has a new bell tower.

For the last few years the belfrey was dismantled. It was kinda of sad to look at the church, wondering if the needed repairs to the original structure were ever going to be restored. I think I even said something to my husband about that.

A few weeks ago, Carol O’Connell shared on facebook the building of the new belfrey. Then I heard about a special dedication event for the bell. This past weekend as I searched the parkway for my dog’s choke chain collar (don’t ask), I heard the bell ringing and cheers from the crowd going up.

It was good to hear that ringing and not to hear any creaking as anything broke. (My head always goes to worse case scenarios so when everything works out it is like a double blessing.) To hear that ringing signals something more than a bell back where it belongs; it signals a rebirth of an organization that has struggled.

We all have that at some point in our lives. Situations get out of hand and we wonder if we can ever come back. Sometimes we fails and sometimes we make it in baby steps the whole way.

It makes me think about movies about the Great Depression when people wondered if it would ever get better.

cinderella-manI remembered watching Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe as a boxer who has lost his beautiful home and taxi company during the Great Depression. He and his wife and three children live in a basement apartment as he works as a day laborer while she takes in sewing and ironing. Life is bleak until a chance fight shows he might still have what it takes. That is when his former manager arranges a bigger fight.

Oh, this movie is filled with sports cliches that we love. But Crowe, Renee Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti give gritty and classy performances of people on the edge who find their way back in the middles of the 1930s when nothing felt as it was going to come back.

That movie may be too adult in context for the younger children in the house. That’s when you pull out Kit Kittredge. Based on the American Girl Doll character of the same name, this girl has spunk.

kit_kittredgeSet during the Depression, ten-year-old Kit learns that while her family has been wealthy, or at least well off, they are slowly losing everything. Her father’s business has gone under, her older brother has not returned to college. Her mother is considering raising chickens.

Kit is overly emotional as ten-year-olds can be, especially when Dad leaves for a different city to find work. She learns to accept the chickens and sells eggs, she deals with their house being overrun with boarders, and brims with the hope that her father will come back soon.

Both movies are filled with grit and determination of characters who know life will get better, even if they don’t know how that will happen or what it looks like. Sometimes when we take on great projects, we don’t know what the outcome will be. But why let something as trivial as that stop us.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Stars Above Us

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

A few weeks ago, the husband and I did an Owl Walk at the forest preserve district on Heiland Road. We also had our 12-year-old son and a friend with us.

It was fun to walk through those woods after dark, the pine forest was as creepy as you would think it could be. We heard other critters moving about and then came the owls.

owl-eastern-screechThere were regulars and they call out once they heard our guide make the call. As we went further down the path, our guide made us listen to the cries of two hungry juveniles who were calling for food. But like parents of human teenagers, these owl parents were ignoring them.

Now that I can relate to.

One of the things I discovered on this walk was not only plenty of information on owls but how to find the Northern Cross constellation in the autumn sky. The Northern Cross is actually an asterism and is a part of the Cygnus the Swan constellation.

When you find it, you will also be in the Milky way. This time of year, the Norther Cross is near the center of the sky after dark. The problem is it is difficult to see, you need to be where there is almost no light pollution in order to see it clearly.

On my nightly walks, I go to my special places to see consellations, and planets and asterisms. I look and look. Some nights I find it easily, other nights I am happy to find the crossbar.

Stargazing has become my new hobby and one that gives me joy in finding and identifying planets. Constellations are going to take a bit more work.

Now this past week saw the release of the latest Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. Set two years after the last movie, this time we are presented with a space traveler’s worst nightmare – having your ship destroyed and unable to connect with your crew members.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, and Zoe Saldana return to the bridge but face new diificulties when an enemy works to destroy the team in order to gain world domination.

star-trek-beyondPerhaps what makes this movie most interesting is that it is filled with a number of references to the TV show and other movies in the Star Trek series. Numbers and images all have a reference to the original series which ran for less than three years on CBS. The movie was released closer to the 50th Anniversary of the show that inspired generations of filmmakers.

I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t seen this movie; I was always a distant trekie. But it is on my list of must sees as I am interested to see how the character of James Kirk has grown and developed as a character. Sure, we want those familiar moments (‘I can’t do it, Captain’ or ‘That is highly illogical,’ or ‘I’m a doctor , Jim, not a …”) but we also want to see where these guys are going – physically and emotionally.

Will the familiar come out of the actor’s mouth, will there be references I will not get in a thousand years? Will I enjoy myself watching this movie?

The answers are yes, yes, and a resounding yes.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Down to the Wire Finish

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

By the time you read this, either the Cubs have won the World Series or they remain lovable losers who came this/close to ending the curse.

I don’t know at the moment if they have done one or the other. At this point in time they have won their second game and must win two more in order to break the curse.

chicago-cubs-2It was great, it was terrifying. I thought they were going to lose it all at various moments when I wasn’t thinking the team had finally gotten over their fears.

I was feeling jealous of my cousin who was in Wrigley field during this tremendous win.

I almost felt bad for all of the times I made fun of him for being a Cubs fan while I am a Sox’s fan.

Almost.

But here’s the thing. I am happy to see the Cubs get this opportunity. But if they lose, I will not let Cubs fans know just how great my team was during the time they were in the World Series. Why, even former president George H.W. Bush was in the audience and they made a point of rubbing Houston’s nose in the loss by doing it quickly.

Perhaps that is too mean, I’m not sure.

In the mean time I can send you in the direction of some great movies about baseball.

You know the ones because they all seem to star Kevin Costner. Ok, maybe not but my two favorites are Bull Durham which is about an older player trying to figure out his role in Baseball as his playing career ends. The other is Field of Dreams in which a man discovers a secret world of deceased players in his cornfield.

Field of Dreams IMDb com

Image from IMDb.com

Both movies, from different perspectives, tell a story that women can love and men can cry about without being total sissies. Maybe that is not politically correct to say but some guys still want to be macho stoics. Whatever.

You can still enjoy these stories of men finding ways to explore their feelings about lost chances and missed opportunities channeled into new opportunities such as a different career in your field or playing catch with your deceased father.

Or maybe you want to explore how the Cleveland Indians manage to stick it it their money-grubbing owner by not stinking and finding their way to the World series in Major League. It will involve a pitcher with wild throws and a voodoo spell to make a bat work. Meanwhile, Tom Berenger learns his game while in the last chance of his career to do something great.

Charlie Sheen appears in this movie as the pitcher with the strong but undisciplined arm. Dennis Haysbert is the Caribbean player who uses what ever he can to bring luck to his bat. None of these movies I have talked about are meant for kids.

rookie-of-the-yearBut there is one that might appeal to them. Rookie of the Year is about a kid who discovers a new talent. After the kid’s arm heals from a break, the kid discovers he can throw as fast as a major a. Of course he is discovered. And soon he is playing for the Cubs as a pitcher.

It is a cute and sweet movie that kids can love. While not always plausible, it is fun and appropriate for younger members of the family..

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Movies for Scardy Cats

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

At this time of year, what you are going to find are lots of scary movies. Movies about Vampires, Zombies, monsters, and serial killers.

But that is what happens in October, we get movies about crazed clowns and psychotic killers.

Not all of us are up for that. Seriously, I can handle only so many scary movies before I am done. I need levity and a bit of laughter along with my scares and creepy-crawly moments.

That explains why every Halloween season, I find myself watching Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. The story is about two sisters who come from a long line of witches whom appear to be cursed. Their husbands die young and usually there is a warning song from a beetle.

practical-magic-collageIt doesn’t help that the women are incredibly beautiful and some are heart breakers. Sally (Bullock) is beautiful but wants to stay close to home. She dreams of a normal life and had a deep love for her husband and their two daughters. That happiness is destroyed when he dies young. Jilly (Kidman) is a bit of a heart breaker and runs away from home at 18 to find the guy who can withstand the curse.

But one day Jilly meets that guy and he turns out to be something more than a regular guy. Soon the two women are dealing with a problem bigger than they can handle, denying the truth to their witchy aunts. Things get worse when a handsome detective from Arizona arrives to solve a missing person’s case.

This movie has some very serious moments about the supernatural, possession, and not messing with that you don’t understand or disrespect. There are funny moments as well when the four women have a margarita party or during a scene in Sally’s botanical soap and lotion shop.

This is a great scary movie for scardy cats like me because humor is scattered all over this movie. There are the ghostly parts and then there is funny or romantic scenes. It is not a good movie to watch around little ones, better for teens and older or those of us adults who want to watch something a little scary and a little sexy.

love-at-first-biteThis lead me to think about Love at First Bite with George Hamilton and Susan St. James. While I am sure there are some funny moments to this movies, it is not one I want to watch and nor can I recommend. Hamilton is more famous for his tan than his acting abilities.

I can only suggest this movie about a vampire who loses his Transylvanian home and moves to New York as a possible movie to riff on with your friends as you watch it. The vampire’s goal is to find the woman who looks like his long lost love who is now in New York City working as a supermodel. Just three bites and he can make her his forever. That is if the grandson of Van Helsing doesn’t kill him first.

Like I said, this movie is great for being ridiculed. All you need is popcorn and a smart-aleck friend to get the ball rolling. Perhaps a drinking game can be made with it.  I am going to guess that by the end of the movie what you will be horrified by is the badness of this plot which is better than being horrified because of one gruesome murder after another in my book.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Killer clowns are wandering the streets, so I’ve heard.

Killer clowns have now replaced zombies as that creature which bring the most fear to one’s heart. I am not a big fan of clowns. Next to caged gorillas, I think they are one of the saddest creatures on earth.

it-pennywiseBut there are plenty of cinematic reasons to fear them. The one that still haunts my dreams on occasion is the clown in the Steven King movie IT. Who wouldn’t be creeped out by that clown that hides in sewers and other places, stealing people to store in a cave.

While that movie was about more than a creepy monster, try the rather open sub plot about anti-whatever behavior we allow in society, it was also about facing fears. To fight that creature, the band of friends had to re-connect and work together to take that gruesome thing down for the final time. They must find strength to confront their biggest fear, a real-life childhood boogieman who must be destroyed for good.

By the way, Tim Curry played the clown and he was fantastically evil. Hard to believe he also voiced the dad for The Wild Thornberries. In 2012, Curry had a stroke that took away his voice and ability to move. He has made great strides in his recovery and I hope that he continues to do so.

killer_klowns_from_outer_space_Another movie that came to mind is Killer Klowns from Outer Space. This is one of those independent movies that became a cult classic. The basic story line is that a group of teenagers are fighting against a groups of flesh eating aliens dressed as clowns. No one believes the teens, of course. All they are left with is an ice cream truck to try and take these Klowns down.

The production values are so bad along with the acting it makes you laugh more than it frightens. I mean, how many times can they shoot their weapons and take down people and no one gets it. Suddenly it makes sense that one of the video games my kids play features a wild ride in an ice cream truck as they fight zombies. Maybe it is not an intentional reference but seems like it to me.

However, the scariest clown was a real one, John Wayne Gacy. This Des Plaines business man, who dressed as a clown for children’s parties, was found guilty of killing over 30 young men and boys. Many of their bodies were found under the foundation of his home. He was eventually convicted and put to death in 1994.

It was a terrifying story played out in real life, Gacy was just charming enough to get

to-catch-a-killer-brian-dennehey

                           To Catch a Killer                               starring Brian Dennehy

these people to trust him. While there are a variety of movies on Gacy and other serial killers, your best bet might be To Catch a Killer starring Brian Dennehy as the serial killer in the 1992 flick. It is a reminder how evil can be next door to you and you may not be able to recognize it.

Who needs fake stalker clowns when real life can be scarier?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Miracle of Movement

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I am not a big fan of Christian movies.

They are always a bit cheesy, too focused on the message, and lacking in a story. Too many have been about the end days and not about how people live or fail at their faith on a daily basis.

Slowly, that is changing.

Better movies are being made; ones that focus on how humans live their lives. They focus on how we can be better as people of faith without pointing out the obvious.

miracles-from-heaven-movie-collageCase in point? I just watched the very family friendly Miracles from Heaven and was blown away,

It’s not just because Jennifer Garner is a good actress or that she had a great supporting cast. Garner is a beautiful woman who seems like one of us, she has that touch of normalcy that is relatable. She is not always a glamor-puss but when she is wearing a pony tail, tee shirt, and jeans she is definitely gorgeous.

In this movie, Garner is a mother to three girls and the wife to a big animal vet. Her husband has recently expanded his practice. They are happy (mostly) in their marriage and the three girls are happy and active. Their spiritual life is on track as well with one of the best praise bands at a church I have ever seen.

miracles-from-heaven-mov-treeBut then their youngest daughter starts having abdominal pain and throws up without warning. Numerous trips to the doctor’s office and ER gets them a diagnosis of lactose intolerance and acid reflux. But this mom knows there is something truly wrong with her daughter, she demands answers and solutions. And eventually, she gets them.

It is not without a price. People at church suggests the illness is because of an unknown sin; the cost of the medicine, treatments, and airplane tickets to Boston are pushing the family to the limit; and Christy is losing her ability to pray and feel God.

That is when a miracle occurs, changing their life yet again.

What keeps this movie from being a total sapfest is Jennifer Garner’s strength and determination, her fierce behavior during stressful moments. She is the center of this movie and carries it well, allowing the ten-year-old Kylie Rogers to be the center when needed.

miracles-from-heaven-mov-porchDon’t get me wrong, I still cried at the end of the movie. There is a lot to take in that is heartbreaking so I would tell parents that this one might not be for the littlest members of the house. It will make for great discussions with your pre-teens. But nor did I feel hit over the head with prosperity theology or “if you don’t have faith, you will get sick” bluster. Oh, I have stronger words for what I really think of that false religious thinking but that will take away from this review.

I want my faith expressed through people’s actions and I received it a plenty. This movie is not perfect, we did have a few cast iron pot moments of explication. And yet, I felt as if this movie made real progress in story-telling and acting by the major cast members. Produced by Affirm Films and Roth Film, it is clear that Christian movies are slowly but surely getting better. Good storytelling will deliver your message, you just need faith in the words and the actor’s ability to bring them to life.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Oh, Maggie

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some actors make it hard for you not to watch. Their ability to channels others and tell incredible stories are amazing feats. Some are so good, they could read the phone book and make it interesting.

That is how I feel about the British actress Maggie Smith. Some of you know here are the indomitable Proprofessor-mcgonnegalfessor McGonagall from the Harry Potter Movies. Here she is delightfully in charge at all times but there is always a hint of whimsy in her eyes, as if she is just waiting to do a little mischief. A rule player until the time she gets to break the rules, Smith gave McGonagall all of the stiff upper lip and the twinkle of affection for her students.

Some might know her as the Dowager in Downton Abby. Putting all of her regal behavior into one character, we begin to understand the very rich when Smith asks just what is a week-end. She enjoys a good fight with her cousin over control of the hospital board while using the same skills to keep her mutinous housekeeper in check.

room-with-a-view

Julian Sands, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Maggie Smith

I remember her most as Cousin Charlotte from A Room With a View. She is the very proper English woman who is stuck in the times as well as trying to live in the more modern era. Her inability to deal with her young cousin’s sprightly ways is complicated by her need to not to be a total stick in the mud, especially if she is being a stick in the mud.

But what I truly appreciate about Smith is her ability to do and try just about anything in the acting world. We know her for the posh roles she plays but Smith can get down and dirty as well. I just watched The Lady in the Van which was a BBC production that has since come out on DVD.

The story is based on a true story of a playwright, Alex Jennings, who allows the neighborhood homeless woman to park her van in his driveway. At first she parks on the street in front of the homes of various neighbors. Some treat her kindly, others are more brusque with her. And she treats them all the same no matter who they are. She accept food as if it is her right to be given tasty treats. She uses the playwright’s bathroom as if it were her own.

lady-in-a-vanOver the years, the two people develop as relationship, an affection of sorts, that aggravates Jennings because his mother is the same age but in a lesser degree of health. Why he seems to give more care to the homeless woman than to his own mother is a bit of a mystery.

Through it all Smith performs well. She takes a character who is unlikable and keeps her that way. There is no magical transformation to a nice person, no miraculous cure for her mental illness. The Lady in the Van remains an enigma despite all that we learn about her, she remains self-focused with moments of joy leaping out that surprise people, and keep them coming back with goodies and needful items.

This is a slice of life, a picture of a moment in time when a lonely man allowed a crazy person to take over his yard with her van and all of her garbage bags surrounding the vehicle. There are no chase scenes or explosions. But this movie is filled with dry English wit and warm moments.

Maybe younger kids should not watch it but it is acceptable for teens who can deal with the slow moments or the humorous ones.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.